BoM gets cash to upgrade IT security after hack

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Budget 2017: Plus a new cyber office, led by DTA.

The Bureau of Meteorology will get an undisclosed splash of cash from the federal government to shore up its IT security following a 2015 hack on the agency’s systems.

Budget papers reveal a big program of work will be undertaken over the next few years to “improve the security and resilience of the BoM’s ICT systems and business processes”.

The government has stayed relatively tight-lipped about the 2015 ‘security incident’ that was identified on the BoM’s systems.

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) late last year said it was likely “foreign adversaries” had managed to infiltrate the bureau’s systems.

By the time ASD discovered a remote access trojan it described as being “popular with state-sponsored cyber adversaries” on the BoM network, all passwords were likely compromised owing to a “password dumping utility” it had uncovered.

Evidence was found of an unknown hacker – likely a foreign intelligence service, the ASD said – “searching for and copying an unknown quantity of documents from the bureau’s network” that it then stole.

The new money – which the government has kept confidential due to “sensitivities”- will “assist the Bureau to “continue to provide reliable, ongoing access to weather, climate, water and oceans information”, the government said.

The Finance department has been given $400,000 over four years to conduct a “gateway review process” for the implementation of the BoM security upgrade.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) has been tasked with “governance and assurance processes” with the project – in line with its newly expanded responsibilities – with funding to the tune of $200,000.

A new central cyber office

The federal government is no doubt trying to avoid another damaging security incident like the Bureau hack and the disastrous 2016 online Census with the new BoM funding.

But the Census bungle has clearly cut deep; the 2017-18 federal budget reveals a $10.7 million injection into the DTA to establish a central Cyber Security Advisory Office (CSAO).

The government’s plan is for the CSAO to act as the governance and assurance authority for cyber security and “broader project vulnerability across government”.

“The CSAO will work with agencies to ensure they are appropriately managing the risks of cyber and other digital vulnerabilities on digital services,” budget papers state.

The creation of the CSAO is a direct response to recommendations made in the review of events surrounding the 2016 eCensus debacle, the government said.

It adds a further feather to the cap of the DTA, which was last October handed a hugely expanded remit with the transfer of all government IT functions from the Finance department.

The DTA revamp was intended to end the divide between back office IT and procurement – which was being managed by Finance, and front-end services.

The agency is now responsible for whole-of-government IT and digital service delivery, IT procurement, shared government IT, funding for whole-of-government IT platforms, advice on IT and service delivery, as well as oversight of all significant IT investments – and now adds central cyber security governance and assurance to that mix.

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